I don’t want to be in a new ‘Brady Bunch’ family

A reader feels a bit uneasy, and jealous, with a new family dynamic, comparing the new family to a version of the classic TV show "The Brady Bunch." Carolyn Hax responds.



March 19, 2024 - 1:41 PM

Photo by Wikimedia commons

Adapted from an online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: My mom recently remarried after divorcing my dad two years ago. I’m 16 and an only child, and I live with my mom and new stepfather. He’s older, and all his kids are in their 30s with their own kids.

They are too Brady Bunch for me. They are trying too hard for us to be one big happy family. His kids text me to “check in.” They come over. Not all at once, but often. And my mom gives them so much attention.

I’m not sure what I’m asking, but this is a major shift in my life. And my mom sometimes chooses her new husband over me. I guess I’m just annoyed and jealous.

— Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia: No, no, don’t negate yourself here. I mean, you’re annoyed — that’s fair — but don’t write this off as “jealous,” as if you’re being too possessive.

You’re at a stage of life that’s busy physically, intellectually and emotionally, and the home space you would normally retreat to for some rest and recharging is also in flux and requiring mental effort. That is legitimately hard.

You are entitled to some rest, absolutely, and to matter enough to your mom to get her backing for what you need. So ask: “I appreciate that [stepfamily] cares about me, but this is a major shift in my life, and sometimes I just want to catch my breath. Will you help me figure out how to slow things down without sending the wrong message?”

READERS’ thoughts:

∙ Can I tell you how much I love the “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” signature line? You’ve got a good, albeit self-deprecating, sense of humor. Maybe the new stepsiblings are just enamored with you. (You’re still entitled to ask for some space, of course.)

∙ Oh, Marcia! I hear you. As a teen, I was still figuring things out, and benefited from unstructured time prepping or bouncing things off Mom. But 3-4-5 times a week, a grandparent or aunt or second cousins would pop by unplanned. Which meant Mom needed to give them attention, and the main living space of our home was occupied. I’d wake up on Saturday morning, wanting to bounce some teen drama off Mom, or just sit vegetatively eating cereal for a few minutes — but Grandpa would be in the kitchen holding court, or dropping off Grandma with supplies to do a project, and maybe the whole day was going to revolve around what THEY wanted to do. It made me feel like I could never relax in my own home in a way that would have grounded me for what was going on in my world outside the house.

∙ This is an adjustment for the mom, too. And Mom probably really wants Marcia to get along with her new husband’s kids. Given that Marcia is 16, I think she could benefit from learning to advocate for herself and might need resources other than Mom. I would encourage Marcia to say things to her mom and stepdad, or the stepkids directly, like: “I don’t dislike A, B and C. It has been a little overwhelming to go from being an only child to part of a large family, though. I would like X.”